Suspense is killing you

LTMO 145D Suspense Fiction

Earl Jackson,

242 Kresge

(831) 459-4777/2781


An intensive survey of the work of major writers in the
genre provides the means for a focalized, polylogic meditation on the constitution
of and politics informing and surrounding „genres.“ Lectures provide historical
background and introductions to genre
and cultural critique.


attendance at lecture, and regular attendance and participation in section.
Each student must have a functioning email account, and provide the address
to the section leader for the compilation of a section-member
email list. Weekly written assignments will be section-based and electronically
mediated (through email, discussion lists, and the WWW). HTML-4
is like life,
only better. 

Familiarity with email, the WWW, etc. is
not a prerequisite for the course, but an elementary facility with
these sources is a requirement for passing
the course.

Written Work

Weekly Assignments

Weekly 2-3 page response papers to be submitted electronically
to the instructor of the section assigned. All assignments are to be submitted
typed, double-spaced, and thoroughly annotated (footnotes or endnotes,
complete bibliography). Format must be internally consistent, but you are
free to use either the MLA Style Sheet or the Chicago Manual
of Style
(unless one is preferred by the section instructor). Most
of the weekly assignments will be structured around a particular question
or questions related to the reading for the week. A student may develop
her or his own question, in consultation with the instructor.


The will be a take-home midquarter and a take-home final examination. Students
will select one from several essay questions, and respond in a well argued,
fully annotated 5-7 essay with citations, endnotes, and bibliography.

Internet Assignments

Familiarity with email, the WWW, etc. is not a prerequisite
for the course, but an elementary facility with these sources is a requirement
for passing
the course.

Accessing and Working With Our Web Site


We have a robust and constantly growing, interactive
site dedicated to this course. Students are required to access this site
at least twice a week. Student assignments and corrected papers will be
posted [with the students‘ names removed.] Interlinear feedback and corrections
are set off by a separate color. Students should read all of these corrected
papers, whether or not theirs is included. I post these papers because
the kinds of difficulties an individual student has is more often than
not shared by a great many other students. By posting the papers with corrections,
the corrections are benefiting the group at large instead of a sole individual.
Furthermore, I find students can more readily follow and appreciate corrections
on someone else’s paper.

If you find your own work posted, please come see
me (or the instructor in question) to go over it in office hours or in
an appointment. Posting is only the beginning of the work, not the end,
nor a replacement for actual contact. Since accessing the site is a requirement,
I expect anyone whose work is posted to make an appointment to address
the problems and to discuss the feedback.

Research/Search/Surfing with a Purpose

Our site includes several annotated webliographies
and catalogues of online reference materials and resources. Familiarity
and facility with these resources is required. We will distribute exercises
to guide acquisition of search skills. I am also happy to do workshops
in the Computer Labs. Please also consult the online version of my essay
on Internet Research. It can be found at:

the section-based assignments, there will be one
take home
essay-question midquarter [which is
one „real“ midquarter [
optional]; and one take-home final.
If we were to have an in-class
final, the time scheduled
for it is 12.00-15.00 on 18. December 1998. I assume people would prefer
the take-home alternative. 

All written work (weekly assignments, essay-finals) are to
be submitted typed, double-spaced, and thoroughly annotated (footnotes
or endnotes, complete bibliography). Format must be internally consistent,
but you are free to use either the MLA Style Sheet or the Chicago
Manual of Style
(unless one is preferred by the section instructor).

The weekly assignments are to be submitted
electronically. The essays may be submitted either electronically or in
hard copy, however electrons are always preferred over paper and ink molecules,
in deference to our friends the trees and the squid. 


While „suspense fiction“ is ordinarily viewed
as „trash“ or purely „entertainment,“ this course will take the texts we
read and their genre very seriously. Our methods of approach will be equally
as serious. Our readings of the primary texts will proceed within a guided
overview of certain tendencies in contemporary literary and cultural theories.
Students will be expected to read the theoretical texts and to utilize
theory in their written work. This is not an elitist demand, nor an attempt
to impose „academic“ value on „popular culture.“

A course like this is a form of intensive
conversation. In order to converse effectively, we need a common language.
The theoretical discourses we will study provide part of that language.
This does NOT mean that we must all think alike or come to the same conclusions.
But if we agree upon a set of critical terms to use, that means we can
use terms very precisely and specifically. Otherwise, confusion will reign,
and it will seem that „theory“ is to blame, when it may simply be that
not everyone is speaking the same language.


For example, we will be relying in part on Samuel
R. Delany’s theory of genre, and his distinctions between „speculative
fiction“ and „mundane fiction.“ These are terms very familar to both science
fiction writers and their readers. „Speculative fiction“ includes both
science fiction and fantasy – fiction that does not take „the given world“
of our daily experience as its location or its model. „Mundane“ (from the
Latin, „mundus,“ „world“), is NOT a derogatory term. It is the science
fiction writers and readers‘ way of classifying texts that DO take „the
given world“ as the location of the story. This means that realist fiction,
whether „literary“ like David Copperfield or „paraliterary“ (in
a genre outside of „literature“) like The Killer Inside Me [suspense]
or The Hound of the Baskervilles [detective], would be „mundane.“
We will be adopting these terms with these meanings in the class. Therefore,
if a student were to write a paper on The Talented Mr. Ripley ,
and to complain about the slowness of its pace, and its long stretches
of daily life without event by declaring the first half of the book, „mundane,“
this would make no sense. Indeed, since novels don’t usually change genre,
this would be unintelligible. In the context of the course and „our language“
the entire novel is „mundane.“ We will go over the advantages of critical
vocabulary and precision in more detail.


Even if we strongly oppose the content of that
theory or the presuppositions of a critical practice, by using the terms,
we can state our argument against that theory in a language that the theory
itself provides. Our disagreements will be more productive if the shared
language allows us to be specific as to where our disagreements lie.

For example, if we are engaged in a Freudian reading
of a text, this does not require everyone [or anyone] to „believe in“ Freudian
psychoanalytic theory. It does require, however, an understanding of the
concepts and an ability to use those concepts. If you are anti-Freudian,
you are free to argue against Freudian psychoanalysis as long as you base
your argument on your careful readings of the Freudian texts in question.
You cannot base your opposition on what you think Freud said, or
what someone wrote that Freud said. And the clarity of terminology works
the same way. Whether pro or con, you cannot discuss the Freudian of concept
of „hysteria“ and continue to use non-technical meanings of the term in
the same discussion. If your use of „hysteria“ at times means the kind
of noisy temper tantrums Lucy Ricardo would display when Ricky would not
allow her in his show, then you cannot engage in a meaningful or useful

  I am not foisting critical vocabulary on
you to make us all think alike. On the contrary, if we have a shared vocabulary
with responsibly accounted for meanings, not only can we think differently,
but we can be explicit about where our differences in thinking are. While
the transition to a critical vocabulary might be uncomfortable or at first
confusing, achieving that transition should put an end to certain levels
of confusion that may have been pervasive and not always detected. We are
seeking clarity, but subtle, flexible, and potentially intricate and dynamic
forms of clarity. Basically, I am aiming at a stage at which when anyone
in class is asked „What do you mean?“ the individual will be prepared to
answer and we will all be prepared to understand and dialogue with

that answer

The above is an excerpt
from our

for the full required-reading text of the


How to Get There



A clearing house/triage directory of online references, research aids,
glossaries, etc. Also categorized assistance in writing, reading, rewriting,
etc. Stop here first and come back often.
Please always  read and study the student work
I post anonymous ly on the Web with my feedback.

The „trouble shooting“ papers will be found in two expanding folders


Peer Inspiration

Also please read and study student work that I post
non-anonymously [with permission] These are examples of how to do papers,
how to formulate questions, how to engage a critical conversation. Required

The first examples of these are here:

This is a two-parter and both parts are required reading

[1] Nichole’s inquiry and paper


Stellar Performances Required Reading


An ongoing exchange with V. Gilfoy.

Suarez’s Midquarter
– another excellent example


Dry-Run Midquarter

In the third week of class, I will hand out
a dry-run essay question take-home midquarter. Students who wish to do
the midquarter should submit it electronically to
Jackson, Jr
. by the date indicated. As this is an extra assignment,
Earl will correct them rather than adding to the other section instructor’s
workload. This will be a good practice for those of you unfamiliar with
the kind of discourse we use. Midquarters, Finals, and other essay question
from previous courses are also archived on the Web. Our
site includes hyperlinks to those archives. These are excellent ways of
familiarizing yourself with what is expected from a critical paper.

Click Here for our first annotated list
of research aids on line.

Click HERE for Earl’s annotated list
of Online Glossaries.

Click HERE for a synopsis of ourintellectual

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